Humanist Hub Blog

RELEASE: Harvard’s Atheist Center Honors Founder of Secular AA

RELEASE: Harvard’s Atheist Center Honors Founder of Secular AA

Harvard Medical School Faculty Retiree Honored for Founding Worldwide Nonreligious Addiction Recovery Group

CAMBRIDGE, MA: The Humanist Community at Harvard (HCH) will present Dr. Joseph Gerstein with the 2016 Humanist of the Year Award on October 9, honoring him for 25 years as the President and founder of SMART Recovery.

SMART, which stands for Self-Management Addiction Recovery Training, is an evidence-based, secular alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. With its focus on recovery from addictions, it operates both as a support group and as a tools-based group which helps individuals clarify their thinking so they can make better decisions for themselves.

“Dr. Joe Gerstein’s work creating SMART Recovery is one of the most important and underrated community service projects of all time,” said Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, and the Executive Director of the Humanist Hub — the community center that houses HCH, and that serves hundreds of nonreligious persons each week with programs and counseling.

“Without any financial gain or attention-seeking, [Gerstein] has helped hundreds of thousands of people to recover from addiction through scientifically based, nonreligious techniques, and his work may reach millions in the future,” Epstein continued. “He is a true hero for our time.”

Gerstein brought the SMART Recovery Program to Massachusetts in 1990. Since that time, there have been more than 28,000 free SMART Recovery meetings in Massachusetts, including 29 weekly SMART meetings in hospitals, churches, synagogues, VA facilities, sober houses, jails, prisons, and community centers.

Gerstein has facilitated more than 3,000 of these meetings himself.

“Dr. Gerstein was a clear choice for this award,” said Sarah Chandonnet, Program Director at the Humanist Hub.

“We at the Hub view his work among the greatest examples of community service in the history of modern humanism.”

In recent years, SMART Recovery has also been offered in prisons worldwide.

A recent study in Australia on 6,000 inmates demonstrated a dramatic decrease in reconvictions for violent crimes after release for those exposed to the SMART Recovery program versus those with standard programming.

SMART Recovery is now available in 22 countries on six continents, and its Handbook has been published in nine languages.

“[His] passion, care, and commitment to people and to SMART Recovery is unparalleled,” said Shari Allwood, the current Executive Director of SMART.

Other recipients of this award have included entertainers Seth MacFarlane and Steve Allen; human rights heroes Gen. Romeo Dallaire and Taslima Nasreen; and world-renowned scientists Steven Pinker and E.O. Wilson

Gerstein will accept the award and deliver an acceptance speech at 1:30 PM at the Humanist Hub, 30 JFK Street in Harvard Square. Visit humanisthub.org for more information.

For information on SMART Recovery, visit smartrecovery.org.

2015 in Review

“Congratulations on all the amazing accomplishments of the Chaplaincy and Hub. I always knew that you’d do great things with them, but I have to say that I underestimated how great they would be!” –Steven Pinker

Introduction

Welcome to the 2015 Year in Review for the Humanist Hub and the Humanist Community at Harvard! Below, we’ve worked* hard to tell the story of a year in the life of a community unlike any other.

This past year, our weekly attendance at Hub programs has tripled, membership has doubled even without our having time to put on a membership drive (stay tuned for one of those in May, when we hope our membership will double again!).

How did we accomplish all this, and what are the individual stories of the people whose lives we’ve impacted? Read below to find out.

We hope you and others will enjoy our story and consider being part of it, by participating locally, joining as members, donating, following us online and/or using the resources we are creating for communities elsewhere.

In 2015, we saw great improvements and/or major new developments in our work on:

  • • Community Growth
  • • Media and Public Advocacy
  • • Politics and Society
  • • Family and Kids, locally and nationally
  • • Training New Leaders
  • • Financial and Management Transparency
  • • and Strategic Planning for even bigger things in the future!

DONATE HERE and/or BECOME A MEMBER HERE!

 

Community Growth

[I’m] very excited about working with the Humanist Hub in the future.  I’m still a little shocked, happily so, at finding a place that so closely aligns with my passions and beliefs.  It’s pretty incredible the growth you’ve been able to facilitate for the group over the last decade!  
–Traci Ann Brown, Harvard postdoc & former leader, Montana Secular Community

Through Boston’s marathon of blizzards this past winter, and with even more growth over the summer and fall, we’ve been filling the Humanist Hub every Sunday, for our signature Sunday programs, the details of which we have thoughtfully designed and implemented this year more than ever: food, participation, music, and social and coffee hours, and more.

They have been so successful, in fact, that another 30 or so members come back every Monday night for our outstanding follow-up discussion group, co-facilitated weekly by Chaplain Greg Epstein.

Other programs included special events attended by hundreds; weekly meditation sessions; Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses; weekly undergraduate student group meetings; monthly kids Learning Lab and parents discussions; the expert-led humanistic psychology workshops; our Harry Potter as a Sacred Text reading group; a film series on humanism, race and social justice; our new positive psychology program; a book group; game nights we co-hosted with local allies Greater Boston Oasis, Boston Atheists, and Sunday Assembly Boston.

Beyond all these programs, however, are the individual stories, the “roses and thorns” in the lives of our hundreds of members and participants. This year, we helped dozens of members with major life events such as weddings and baby welcoming ceremonies, career and academic transitions, funerals, depression and suicidal thoughts, overcoming homelessness, or simply connecting with good friends in a deeper and more caring way than society usually allows.

After having lost my identity as a married person almost four years ago with the death of my wife, after having been coupled with her since we were eighteen years old…  I am not what I was for my previous entire adult life. The Hub has become my College of Life, which fits well for me here on the Campus of Harvard University. –Dan Yetter

The Humanist Hub is where I’ve found real support and help as I try to do two very different and equally difficult things: develop a social justice card game and finish my book about navigating the emotional impact of changing your diet. There aren’t many places where I could get the kind of enthusiasm and support I have gotten for two such incredibly different projects. But the Humanist Hub is that kind of place. If it’s good for humans, if it’s a way to solve a problem, Greg and Sarah and everyone else at the Humanist Hub want to help you make it real. This community is a safe place for innovation and I’m incredibly grateful for it. –Lillian, member and entrepreneur
For me, the Hub fills a pressing need in the Boston community. I know so many people who are non-believers, but are looking for the sense of community that others get through their religion. I support the Hub because it provides me with that community, and because I believe the Hub has an important role to play in connecting many more people in the future. –Sam Ribnick, strategic planning committee, parent

Media and Public Advocacy

The news media took an extraordinary amount of interest in our community this past year. Highlights:

In March, CNN.com used our organization as the answer to the question “what is humanism?,” in their groundbreaking documentary on atheists and humanists in America; then asked us to say more online. In October, the New York Times covered the “boomlet” of humanist students coming to Harvard Divinity School to study and work with us.

A leading feminist publication called us the “Feminist ‘Godless Congregation’ Challenging Atheism’s Bro-Culture,” and even our parties this past year were covered by major media sources like the Boston Globe, NPR, Boston Magazine, and…Sports Illustrated!?

Politics, Society and Culture

We worked hard in 2015 to show people– locally, nationally, and internationally– what it could look like for a diverse humanist community to work on important social, political and cultural issues of our time. Highlights:

 

Following up on his work advising former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2012-13, and on Massachusetts Governor Patrick’s proclamation of “Humanist Community Day” throughout Massachusetts in honor of our grand opening in December 2013, early this year Greg Epstein was invited to join Boston Mayor Walsh’s administration, becoming perhaps the first humanist to serve on an interfaith advisory board for a major US politician.

Our response to the terrible February murder of Muslim honor students in North Carolina also received national attention, and our response to the tragedy on campus caused Muslim students to stop and thank some of us for days thereafter, simply for having been there with them despite our differences.

We hosted some of the most influential environmentalists in the US at the Hub this year, and we are now partnering on an important project with Karenna Gore and her work expanding on her father Vice President Al Gore’s legacy of earth ethics.

In December 2015 Greg was invited to the White House as part of a small group of young leaders representing humanism as part of a new nationwide interfaith inclusion campaign called Know Your Neighbor. The Humanist Hub was cited (by Michael DeDora of the Center for Inquiry) during one of the panel discussions at the White House event, as a leading example of humanist communities and the good they do in society.

Many members of the Hub community worked passionately and prominently on issues of race and social justice this year, toward recognizing our privilege and fighting for justice.

Thank you for providing such a warm and supportive atmosphere in which to teach the White People Challenging Racism Course, and for allowing me to work with such a reflective, bright, inspiring, and committed group of people. –Beth Herman Davis

We hosted a dialogue on prison reform with #1 New York Times bestselling author Piper Kerman, and we’ve since been invited to present on humanism to the chaplains of the MA Department of Corrections, with plans to design an introduction to humanist community course to teach in MA prisons next year.

We’ve announced an upcoming meeting with Carrie Fisher, to highlight her mental health activism: 

Carrieheadshot

On December 6, our 3rd annual Humanist Community Day, we will host our Harvard Humanist of the Year John Amaechi O.B. E., a psychologist and bestselling author who was the first former National Basketball Association player to come out as gay. (Our other 2 speakers will be Pulitzer Prize-winner Ron Suskind, on his latest book Life, Animated; and Hub member Sasha Sagan, on the solstice and the legacy of her father, the late Carl Sagan.

Family and Kids

The Humanist Learning Lab (HLL) provides children and adolescents with an inclusive space to learn in a secular setting about what it means to be a moral citizen. Our goal is to create a safe environment for youth to explore their identities as critical thinkers and as compassionate, community-minded participants in our diverse world. 2 preview videos for our sold out learning lab!

We worked hard at fundraising all year, to be able to hire Nick Bohl, whose videos are above, as our full time HLL teacher and coordinator; alongside our wonderful psychologist in residence at the Hub, Dr. Erik Gregory, who brings extraordinary credentials to his work supervising Nick and HLL.

Now we are hard at work to create a series of videos and resources that will allow kids and families anywhere to enjoy the curriculum we’ve created in partnership with scholars at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
To give you a sense for the kind of resources we have the potential to create, check out this animated video we made on the beauty and inspiring message of the Solstice, created with editor and producer Sasha Sagan, using just an iPhone. We’ll use it as part of our forthcoming unit on the cosmos.

I just watched the video for the Learning Lab and it was amazing! You found someone so talented and engaged. Bravo! I miss the Hub and the Learning Lab. –Brendan Randall, Director of Campus Engagement, Interfaith Youth Core and former chair, HLL curriculum committee.

Training New Leaders

After many years of training and teaching new humanist community leaders, we were delighted to see the New York Times cover our work with the “surge” of atheists and nonreligious students who are now applying to and attending Harvard Divinity School and related institutions, specifically to study with us.

[Our former chaplain & director, 1974-2005] Tom [Ferrick] did many things for me when I was a poor student, so it is only appropriate that I give something back now that I am not so poor. –Jason B, Harvard Law School graduate and former HCH intern.

We’ve placed our trainees at Yale and Stanford, and helped set up Humanist chaplaincies or the equivalent at USC, Carnegie Mellon, Tufts, American University and in many other communities. The demand for our expertise in humanist community leadership has been overwhelming, growing every month this year.

My connection to the Clinical Pastoral Care program at Havenwood in Concord, NH (Chaplaincy internship), was through another chaplain you introduced me to at the Hub one Sunday after your talk. She gave me a good view of the CPE programs around the city and pointed me in the direction of the program Rev Michelle DeCoste does at Havenwood, as a good match for me. It has worked out famously!! This makes real one of your goals of “making connection” happen in a very tangible way, at least for me. Thank you again. –Herb Hale, humanist chaplain in training

Fall 2015 also brought the release of a book, Secular Meditation, based on the weekly meditation sessions we’ve been having for the last six years; Secular Meditation has been adapted as a resource for teaching meditation by the Secular Student Alliance and several other secular groups nationwide.

Financial and Management Transparency

In past years, we received feedback from supporters who wanted more information about our income, expenses and budget, and about how we made decisions on critical issues such as programming, staffing, and more. We completely agree and are excited that this year, we finally achieved a level of operational stability and sustainability where we were able to make such information public in a well-organized way.

On October 4, we held a well attended public “Town Hall” at which we presented briefly on every aspect of the organization, and took questions from the audience. The slide show of our Town Hall presentation can be downloaded here.

Additionally, supporters or prospective supporters may request additional financial information such as P&L statements, balance sheets, budgets, fundraising proposals, and more. Just send us an email inquiring about any of this.
Strategic Planning

We are working hard to map out a sustainable and ambitious strategy for growth over the next five years. In 2015, we held a strategic planning retreat to which we invited members from all aspects of our community, and we established a Strategic Planning Committee as well as a Community Committee, wherein Hub members can volunteer to be part of this development process. In the coming weeks, we will post the names and bios of members of these committees as well as of our board.


Here are some images from our June strategic planning retreat:

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How great it is for a secular group to have their own facility. This arrangement should be a goal for all other large metropolitan areas.”— Lewis Kana, Houston Coalition of Reason

If you’ve read this far, we urge you to make a year-end donation to help us grow our work. We get zero funding from Harvard University and we can’t grow or even continue our work without financial support from people like you!

DONATE HERE and/or BECOME A MEMBER HERE!